Category Archives: Law

NBC: Women Detained in Federal Immigrant Center Complain of Feeling Unsafe

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As usual, stellar reporting from Alexandra Villareal on what’s been going on inside the Berks County Residential Center since May.

But after 10 families who had stayed long-term at the facility were deported in May, men and their children replaced them, said Karen Hoffmann, a legal advocate for immigrants at Berks.

[One] woman, who was recently released from Berks after a months-long stay and asked to remain anonymous while her paperwork is processed, said: “All of the women were uncomfortable with this situation.”

When an influx of men arrived a few months ago, the county-run center placed them in dormitories adjacent to mothers and their kids, Hoffmann said and ICE has confirmed.

In May, while one of the mothers was resting in her room, a male resident reportedly walked in uninvited. Alarmed, the woman told her attorneys that she asked what he was doing there. He responded that he was searching for water, despite the cafeteria and snack areas being in other, distant parts of the center.

Some of the women at Berks have fled from domestic violence and sexual abuse in their countries, and suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder because of their experiences.

Read more about the inexcusably reckless situation ICE has created at Berks at NBC New York >>

 

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SCOTUS should grant cert in Castro. Judicial review of Trump’s immigration detention regime depends on it

IntLawGrrls

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60 miles outside Philadelphia, on a bucolic country road in Berks County, PA, sits a brick building with a fenced-in yard fronting a line of trees. To look at it, you would never guess this place is the epicenter of the coming battles over judicial review of immigration detention in the United States.

Today the Supreme Court is conferencing to decide whether to grant a writ of certiorari in the case of Castro v. Department of Homeland Security.

Of the two dozen families who are the plaintiffs in Castro, about half have been released. But 14 families remain at Berks. They fled gender-based violence and threats to their lives in their home countries and sought asylum in the United States. After deeply flawed credible fear interviews and rubber-stamp affirmations by an immigration judge, they have languished in legal limbo for the past year and a half.

The Third Circuit decided that these families…

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So what else is new?

I started drafting this before last week. Now it feels a little like “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, …” But anyway:

  • About two months ago, I started working as a legal advocate with the lawyers at the Berks Family Detention Center in Berks County, Pennsylvania. In 2014, the United States government began engaging in a policy of indefinitely detaining women and children in immigration detention. These are refugee women and children fleeing horrific gender, child and sexual violence in Central America. Berks is home to the oldest family detention center for refugee moms and their children in the nation. It is currently holding vulnerable children and mothers for over a year. This no-release policy for mothers and children fails to recognize the deleterious effects detention has on children and victims of trauma. As a result, many mothers and their young children suffer — not only extremely difficult legal cases, but also the physical, psychological, social and emotional effects of detention.

Here’s a recent Nation article on the situation at Berks: “Why Is The Obama Administration Keeping Toddlers Behind Bars?” And here’s a picture of a family that just #gotfree, as well as the 17 families in that story that are still detained, and have been for more than a year. We are going to try everything we can to get them released before Trump gets into office. If you’d like to follow and support our work, like us on Facebook at ALDEA – The People’s Justice Center.

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  • I have been working as a remote coordinator with Advocates Abroad, a network of volunteer attorneys from around the world assisting asylum seekers in the EU and Turkey. We welcome remote and on-the-ground assistance! More here: advocatesabroad.org.
  • On October 21, I spoke on a panel on “Migrants and Refugees” at Penn Law as part of their Journal of International Law “Societies in Transition” symposium. I talked about how Berks violates international human rights law (not to mention the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania!), as well as similarities between family detention in the US and the detention conditions in Greece. Hunger strikes, language access, access to counsel issues… the list goes on.

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If there’s one good thing about this election, it seems like it’s inspiring activism among an unprecedented number of people. Increased support and visibility for human rights defenders can only be a good thing. Despite everything, I’m hopeful.

Ecuador condemned at the new Tribunal for the Rights of Nature in Paris (Mongabay)

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José Gualinga, a Sarayaku leader, testifies at the Tribunal about his people’s successful efforts to halt seismic testing for oil in their territory. Photo by Karen Hoffmann.

Last weekend, while the official COP21 negotiations were going on north of Paris at a site called Le Bourget, leaders of indigenous nations in North and South America were in Paris calling for justice for what they say are ongoing violations of the rights of the earth itself.

The “rights of nature” were recognized in the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 2010, designed as an alternative to the COP meetings. The declaration, which gave rise to the International Tribunal for the Rights of Nature, created “a manifesto for earth justice,” in the words of the president of the current tribunal, Cormac Cullinan, author of Wild Law. The book, published in 2003, lays out a case for granting legal rights to communities and ecosystems.

The first such tribunal was held last year in Quito, Ecuador, and its second session was almost a year later in Lima, Peru.

Among the cases heard by this tribunal, several dealt with oil exploitation in Ecuador — a country that, ironically, was the first to include the rights of nature into its 2008 constitution. One of these cases focused on Yasuní National Park.

Yasuní is a UNESCO World Heritage Preserve and a biodiversity hotspot. Nowhere else are there more documented species of mammals, birds, amphibians and vascular plants. As one presenter noted, in one tree in Yasuní, one can find 94 species of ants; one hectare holds more tree species than the US and Canada together.

But Yasuní also sits above the largest oil reserve in Ecuador – 846 million barrels – presenting a threat to the people and animals living in it. More at Mongabay.com>

#FergusonPHL: Philadelphia reacts to Ferguson news

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 1.09.32 PMNBC Philadelphia used one of my shots from last night’s Ferguson solidarity protests in Philly, after the announcement of the decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown.

More of my photos and video from last night on are up on Demotix.

There’s another protest scheduled for 4pm today in North Philadelphia, at Broad and Cecil B. Moore. The march will start at City Hall at 3:30pm and head north. Facebook event link: https://www.facebook.com/events/295619220627789/

PHOTO/ ‘Troubles of a new beginning,’ Wiener Zeitung Online

Just noticed that my photo of Colombia’s Palace of Justice was used to accompany an Austrian story about how, “after half a century of civil war, Colombia is trying to end the conflict. The year 2014 is all about two important ballots and the conclusion of a peace agreement.” More at Wiener Zeitung Online (in German) >

 

Wildcat Wells in Florida’s Big Cypress Preserve Bring New and Unstudied Risks (Earth Island Journal)

BY KAREN HOFFMANN – MAY 1, 2014

Regulatory agencies aren’t carefully assessing the impact of ramped up oil and gas exploration in southwest Florida, say critics

When you think of oil drilling, South Florida probably doesn’t immediately come to mind. But rising oil prices are bringing increasing oil and gas exploration projects to southwest Florida, home of the Everglades, and they are already putting environment at risk.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently slapped a $25,000 fine on the Texas-based Dan A. Hughes Company for injecting unapproved acid into Florida’s vulnerable underground limestone formations in the middle of Audubon Society’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a major nesting site for wood storks. Yet the DEP recently approved another request by Dan Hughes to drill near another protected areas — the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge — despite vehement opposition from residents and environmental groups.

Big Cypress National PerservePhoto by Marcel Hujser

Of all the new drilling proposals, the one seeking to drill the federally protected Big Cypress Natioanl Perserve has created the most furor.

Though oil drilling seems at odds with South Florida, which is known for its wildlife parks and agricultural reserves, fact is, drilling has been going on in this region ever since Humble Oil bored its first well in Collier County in 1943. The US Geological Survey’s most recent estimates show that there are about 370 million barrels of undiscovered oil in South Florida. Energy companies are eager to get that oil out of the ground.

Most of the recent drilling applications have been for exploratory wells — “wildcats” in industry parlance. First, companies drill an exploratory well to see if there’s any oil. If there isn’t, they plug it up and move on. If there is, they drill another well to inject the wastewater, called brine, into the ground.

These injection wells are the main threats to the environment. From Ohio to Texas, they have a record of leaking. The US Environmental Protection Agency notes that brine from oil and gas extraction may contain “toxic metals and radioactive substances” and “can be very damaging to the environment and public health if it is discharged to surface water or the land surface.”

But Florida’s permeable geologic formations present new and unstudied risks as well. Because of the porous limestone that makes up the southwest Florida’s bedrock, it’s possible that the wastewater could migrate upward into the groundwater that millions of Floridians drink.

Given these concerns, you might assume the EPA and DEP would carefully study the environmental impacts before issuing a permits for such wells — especially in environmentally sensitive areas. But this is Florida (cue the chirping cicadas), where it seems, anything goes. . The Big Cypress National Preserve, incidentally, is already home to 11 wells.   More at Earth Island Journal >